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on 24 December 1998
David Barthelme's Snow White, unlike some other specimens of avant-garde fiction, never loses its grip on the plot or the emotions of its characters in favor of retaining its experimental rhythms. One is able to feel sympathy for the many long-suffering dwarves, hope for the romantic leads, and an appropriate sense of the apalling regarding the villains, and still appreciate the puns and absurdities Barthelme was so adept at creating. At first glance, readers of more mainstream fiction might be put off by the seemingly random leaps between viewpoints and styles. However, on closer inspection, one finds a distinct pattern and a remarkable fullness to the prose. Not to mention the often tremendously funny, yes laugh-out-loud funny, episodes sprinkled throughout the book. By the time one reaches the last, very short, chapter, one sees that every line has been carefully crafted to reach this conclusion. It has become inevitable. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in adult faerie tales, experimental fiction, or anyone seeking a diverting, off the beaten path, change of pace from the cookie cutter junk so many authors now pass off as great literature.
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on 23 November 2008
Barthelme (1931-89) is generally held to be one of Postmodernism's torchbearers (but he's better than that), and to be more adept at short stories than longer forms of fiction (but he's better than that too). 'Snow White' is hardly, you can at least assume, the traditional tale retold. In a series of short chapters the captious heroine is obliquely revealed as a woman regularly pleasured in a shower cubicle by the seven dwarves for whom she performs 'horsewifely' duties; the prince is a fop, and the stepmother is almost an incidental presence in relation to the potently amoral Hogo (one of several 'introduced' characters to the fable). But the characterisation, no more than the narrative, is largely beside the point. The real pleasure of Barthelme's fiction is in the curiously mutating narrative position (large chunks of the story are told by various dwarves) and the flash of succinct sentences that seem to circumscribe an original world view ("...those girls who, right this minute, are trying to find the right typewriter, in the correct building"). This is quite an early book (1967) and perhaps more playful than his later pieces. Intelligent and excellent, it harbours no designs to change your life: that, after all, would be altogether TOO uncool...
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on 17 September 1997
I first read _Snow White_ some time in the '80s, and somehow was unmoved by the wit, the irony, the fantastic stylistic control. Then for some reason I started reading a section of it aloud to a friend, and fell in love with it. Each brief chapter has its own style, its own didactic purpose, and most of all its own mad humor. Barthelme is a worthy companion of Calvino (_If On a Winter's Night a Traveller_) in reinventing comic fiction.
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on 26 May 2011
A boat trip: Barthelme, a writer, looks at the water and sees a woman. Hair as black as ebony, heart as pure as the driven snow. He thinks of a film, but not a story.

The lecture room: He, the writer, tells others what to write. `You write in lines, don't you?' he asks each of the students. They don't understand. What are you writing, they ask back. `Nothing original, perhaps.' Nothing, they ask? `Well, I did see this woman at sea, but no story.'

His apartment: The writer sees the woman again. But different. Hair as black as ebony. Heart as messy as the dirt dragged through the driven snow.

A subversion? Of what? Don't make it obvious, Donald. Please, not obvious.

In the bar, with the details: The writer, drunk, creates scenes on the whisky top. A Disney prostitute, living with seven men. They, the seven men, have leadership issues. A Prince. Yes, but he's muddled. She hangs her hair out of the window for him, but he may never climb up. In the meantime, she sleeps with the seven men.

Something different: `What haven't they seen before?' the writer wonders.

At the end of Part One a questionnaire appears, asking the reader if the text, so far, has been emotional enough.

The future, forty years later, a guy on amazon writes that this is the weirdest, most inventive book he has ever seen. And you will enjoy around sixty-two percent of it. The rest will frustrate.
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on 23 November 1998
This is curiously one of the most qouted of DBs works. Curious, because it is a Novel, a form that never became emblematic for this brilliant writer of (first and foremost) short fiction. Snow White also seems to me to be confineable within the general prejudice on postmodern fiction, being so obviously self-referential and so obviously adressing the crisis of referentiality in language. This makes Snow White easier to comprehend (finish off) for Literary Criticism, that generaly has yet to come up with a delicate measure for the more complex shorter fiction of DB. Snow white is however, within these limits, the work of a true master.
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on 16 July 1999
Donald Barthelme was a genius. This delicious book is inventive and playful yet feeling. I was dabbling in fiction writing myself until I discovered that Barthelme was already publishing books in the style I was writing in. I felt like this book was about me.
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